Colleges nationwide face debate over trigger warnings in courses

Brace yourselves, Georgetown. It looks like the school’s next big debate about academia for people in academia is sailing into view over the horizon. This past spring, colleges and college English teachers around the country faced mounting pressure to preface potentially triggering course material with disclaimers or warnings. Vox wonders which intrepid SFSer will be the one who starts GU Trigger Warnings this fall.

“Trigger” refers to a sensory experience that has the potential to make a victim or someone with PTSD relive a traumatic experience. Trigger warnings are often used to protect victims of sexual assault or war veterans in particular.

The trigger warning debate is strongest at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where the student government has formally called for them from professors and is creating a set of guidelines for what types of things need trigger warnings. But colleges other than Santa Barbara, such as Rutgers and the University of Michigan, are facing the same thing, according to The New York Times.

Many in academia are opposed to the trigger warnings, arguing that they just shelter students from harsh realities, realities that difficult course material are meant to confront and overcome.

Some on the other side of the argument hold that relying on professors’ discretion could leave the use of trigger warnings up to inherently biased people. Soraya Chemaly also argues in her Huffington Post piece that trigger warnings do not censor any course material or lessen its impact but, rather, respect victims and their needs.

While Vox is not yet sure if any students have taken up this cause at Georgetown, this topic will probably turn up in the campus conversation this fall.

Photo: Michael Kappel via Flickr

4 Comments on “Colleges nationwide face debate over trigger warnings in courses

  1. College should have one big trigger warning. CAUTION: you are now entering a zone of rude bullshit, people suck and will probably hurt you, also if you do your readings something will make you mad, but you probably wont, because of the other rude bullshit. #TriggerWarning

  2. Academic debates are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.

  3. Pingback: Colleges nationwide face debate over trigger warnings in courses |

  4. I mean, some girl in Map this semester started crying when Prof put up a photo of either the March 2011 tsunami in Japan or the Haitian earthquake, I don’t remember. It was extremely awkward because she had heels on and sat in the front so we heard her clacking for a good minute as she exited the room.

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